The Olympic rings are illuminated during a sunset in the Lee Valley Velopark on March 15, 2014 in London.
International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon signed a historic agreement today at the UN Headquarters in New York aimed at strengthening collaboration between the two organisations at the highest level.
The agreement underlined that the IOC and the UN “share the same values of contributing to a better and peaceful world through sport.”
The IOC, which was granted UN Observer Status in 2009, has long enjoyed strong ties with individual UN agencies, working with them globally on a number of initiatives that use sport as a tool for development and peace. Today’s agreement means the IOC will now work with the UN Secretariat on a range of projects around the world.
Speaking at the announcement, IOC President Thomas Bach said, “Sport can change the world, but it cannot change the world alone. When placing sport at the service of humankind, we need and we want partnerships with other payers in society. The Olympic Movement is willing and ready to make its contribution to the most laudable efforts of the United Nations to maintain and build peace and to bring along social change.”
The agreement, which was signed in the presence of the President of the General Assembly, recognises the goal of the IOC and the Olympic Movement to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport without discrimination of any kind. It also calls for respect of the autonomous organisation of sport.
The two organisations call for sporting initiatives to promote social integration and economic development, including:
a) Access to sport for all among communities, in particular the most disadvantaged and marginalised populations
b) Quality physical education in school settings
c) Youth empowerment, education and skills development
d) Girls’ and women’s empowerment
e) Peace-building and community dialogue
f) Healthy life-styles promotion
g) Environmental sustainability
Within this framework, the IOC, together with National Olympic Committees, International Sports Federations, Organising Committees and individual athletes, will work together with UN member states, UN Special Envoys, Special Advisors and Goodwill Ambassadors, UN Specialised Agencies and UN Funds.
“The first-ever Memorandum of Understanding between our organisations is a logical step after years of ever closer collaboration in using sport to promote development and peace,” said Secretary-General Ban. “Sport has great power to bring people together, improve public health and promote teamwork and mutual respect.”
On the occasion of the signing it was also announced that IOC Honorary President Rogge was appointed as the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Youth Refugees and Sport. The overall objective of the role will be to support the United Nations Secretary-General in advancing peace, development and an inclusive society through sport. On substantive issues, the Special Envoy will work closely with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
In his speech the IOC President reiterated his plea from the opening and closing ceremonies for the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi when he called on political leaders of the world to “respect the Olympic message of goodwill, of tolerance, of excellence and of peace.” He once again urged all those implicated in confrontation to act on the Olympic message of dialogue and peace.
“Please have the courage to have a direct personal dialogue at the highest level in the spirit of mutual respect, good will and peace,” he said.
Accompanying President Bach were IOC Honorary President Jacques Rogge, IOC member in Norway and Olympic champion Ole Einar Bjørndalen, United States Olympic Committee Secretary General Scott Blackmun and US Olympic marathon runner Meb Keflezighi.
The delegation took part in a meeting convened by the United Nations Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace at the United Nations Headquarters, marking the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, the first edition of which took place on 6 April.
Keflezighi, a silver medallist at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games and most recently the winner of the Boston Marathon on 21 April, spoke of how sport changed his life after he was first exposed to organised sport after moving to the United States from Eritrea at the age of 10.
“Sport is its own school of life, and some say I have earned a PhD. Sport taught me self-discipline, commitment and perseverance. It taught me that success is achieved in small steps, through hard work and lessons learned from your mistakes,” Keflezighi said. “In addition to these life skills, sport gave me something else that was extremely important to a refugee from a war-torn country. Sport gave me hope. I want to commend the IOC and the UN for using sport to bring hope to refugee camps and peace to regions plagued by violence. I know that these efforts are making a difference.”